Most days I ask myself, “Why am I here?” At this moment exactly one year ago, I was petting koala bears and feeding kangaroos in Australia. But just like my year abroad, my final year at Vassar is also coming to an end and the emotions, ideas and trepidations that come with it are as complex as my thesis.
Never did I imagine myself writing as much as I do now; I have to average around two pages a day in order to meet all of my deadlines, but my scheduling abilities are much better than my ability to put plans into action. From watching YouTube videos to reading way too much of my research books instead of writing, everything happens in a kind of slow motion, one which sluggishly has you blink, then you open your eyes once again and it’s 1 a.m. Whoops. So much for those two pages. But I know they will get done. My thesis is the culmination of work I’ve done over the past two years abroad and here at Vassar. Exploring conservation in Singapore, Australia, and Guatemala: this topic has taken me into some obscure places of literature and introduced me to language and words I never would have thought to put together, but that’s one of the many reasons I love anthropology and why my thesis is so important to me.
I try to do any readings I can in the morning, as that is when I am the most awake and can really chew on the concepts I am going to be discussing. At noon every day I alternate between a modern dance class, a strength class and a pilates class. It keeps me active when all I do all day is sit and read or attempt to write. After a hearty, warm lunch, I try to read or write, but usually I’m the most distracted at this hour, hence I’m writing this article at 4 p.m. on a Monday. fps. But don’t get me wrong, letting the mind wander is as important as being focused on the task at hand. I don’t really engage with Facebook anymore, but Snapchat, podcasts and napping are great ways to pass this time, or writing this piece I suppose. (Shout out to the Myths and Legends Podcast that my only other fellow South Dakotan left at Vassar recommended. We listened to this and only this on the 28-hour drive back home that we did together at the end of our sophomore year. Thanks Sunny.)
Dinner is my favorite time of day at Vassar College. It’s the meal where I get to spend time with my now four, used to be five, amazing housemates (Megan DeKoning ’18, Lilly Wang ’18, Ari Bell ’18 and our sorely missed Orianna (Oreo) Catton ’18). It’s the meal where I get to cook and see the joy that my cooking brings to them. It’s the meal I always have planned and even if I don’t, something always happens. It’s the meal when I can sit down and catch up with people and not be too distracted by classes, my thesis or other pressing issues. It’s a time to breathe and enjoy great food with even better company. Growing up, this meal was always lunch for my family, but everyone is always busy around lunch time here in the U.S. In Guatemala it all builds up for the noon meal, then picks back up at around 5 p.m. But the tradition from my home country stays and travels with me wherever I go: at least one meal a day where you can share some time with someone else and be content. Don’t let me paint a flat picture, though; all family and friend meals are affairs of juicy gossip and deliciously rich stories, so there’s bound to be some drama. From who left the pot full of dumpling water on the stove and didn’t wash the dishes to our shared lack of romantic love, we bond over the smallest and largest things, including black sesame balls that Lilly makes for me that remind me of a candy my great-aunt makes in Guatemala.
Why am I here? Well, for this. And so much more. I’ve enjoyed being able to be a part of the Vassar community, including the difficult parts that made it almost unbearable. Now, as I enter the last 98 days before graduating, I want to appreciate all of the small things that make life here bearable, rich and yet simple enough to where I can come home and enjoy the smell of my illegal, scented candle. So for those leaving with me, I can’t wait to see the ways the world will open up for us. And for those of you staying, pause, look up and enjoy the weather, even when it’s raining.